Ethnomethodology: Harold Garfinkel and Common-Sense Theory of Suicide

Dr. Manishika Jain- Join online Paper 1 intensive course. Includes tests and expected questions.

Harold Garfinkel

  • Founder in late 1940s
  • Coined the term Ethnomethodology
  • Approach to social inquiry and a theoretical perspective
  • Study of every day methods used by people
  • Book: Studies in Ethnomethodology, 1967
  • Examine methods and procedures to give meaning to their social world

Documentary Method

  • To make sense of the world
  • Give it an appearance of order


  • Selecting certain features of a situation ◊ defining them in a particular way ◊ finding the pattern
  • Reversed
  • Pattern used as evidence
  • Presupposed underlying pattern --
  • There is a relationship between Individual documentary evidence and what is known
  • Organization of everyday life
  • The extraordinary organization of the ordinary
  • Focus is not on actors but members
  • Focus is on practices that produces structures in the society

Common Sense Theory of Suicide

  • Atkinson
  • Coroner
  • Methods, types, evidence, life history
  • Pattern

Concepts of Ethnomethodology

  • Indexicality: no fixed meaning, based on context
  • Reflexive: meanings are set, that is how we communicate
  • Reflexively accountable?
  • Ethnomethodological indifference?
  • Analyzing accounts to know their practical use

Explanation of Social Order

  • Do not believe in actual or objective national order
  • Social life appears orderly to members of the society so it may not actually exist
  • It only appears to exist because of how members for see them
  • “Ethnomethodology՚s go about the task of seeing, describing and explaining order in the world in which they live.” - Zimmerman and Wielder

How Social Order is Achieved?

  • People create social order from the ‘bottom up’ .
  • Through their everyday lives using common sense knowledge.
  • Assumed that society exists only in so far as actors perceive its existence
  • Stress on actors views of social reality also regarded as phenomenological approach


  • Ethnos methods are ‘reflexively accountable’
  • Conversational analysis is a part of Ethnomethodology
  • Man, as a cultural dope – acts in compliance to directives of society
  • Society is a social construction


1. Which one of the following is correct about Ethnos methodology?

(A) Macro Sociology

(B) Micro Sociology

(C) Certainly not Macro Sociology

(D) Certainly not Micro Sociology

Answer: (C)

2. Harold Garfinkel considers which of the following to be the fundamental sociological phenomenon?

(A) Social facts as made of institutions

(B) Treating the objectivity of social facts as accomplishment of members

(C) Treating the objectivity of social actions

(D) Social actions as made of values and accomplished by members

Answer: (B)

Q. 3. According to Ethnomethodology՚s, which type of reasoning is used by the people?

(A) Inductive Reasoning

(B) Deductive Reasoning

(C) Practical Reasoning

(D) No Reasoning

Answer: (C)



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